What ever happened to innovation?

Before Web 2.0, just as dial-up was fading and the web was emerging as an interactive medium, every web agency was scrambling to hire Flash designers – animators that could turn an art director’s vision into as smooth-as-possible graphical animation to appear at the start of a website. Yes, that’s right. For those of you either too young or too inebriated to remember 10 years ago, web traffic encountered a barrier on the way to the homepage – the splash or interstitial page. The site often used Flash in the menu and other elements too.

Bacardi Flash website circa 2008

Bacardi Flash website circa 2008

The Flash page introduced the website, often in less than 10 seconds (if you were smart) and gave the user a brief encounter with the brand they were eager to explore. Quite happy they were, to wait. And of course depending on your connection speed, to wait, and wait, and wait, because the Flash page itself had to load too.

While the web has moved on and we’re now in the era of driving relevant content as fast as possible to the user, the loss of the Flash page does highlight something – a decrease in innovation and creativity. The proliferation of WordPress websites (and yes, I know this is one) has led to everyone seeking the same goal through mostly the same means. We’re at the start of the millennium in car design, when everything conformed to a visual standard.

I remember working with a client in 1996 and brainstorming where we could put the menu for the site and how the navigation would work. We had freedom and license to explore it. “Clean” seems to be the number one direction from a client these days, along with “fast” and it struck me this morning that it’s a shame. So, we’re on a mission… to create a new website for gb that will deliver relevant information but in a completely different way. This is a journey into discovery. Ok, it’s not exactly dangerous, nor does it involve NASA, but it could be the start of something new and even if it isn’t, as creatives we should all be pushed outside our comfort zone from time to time. We’ll tell you more soon but in the meantime, let’s see how often we can all think just a little differently, speak a little differently, act a little differently and provide just a smidgen more color to our daily working lives.


5 Quick Tech Tips for Salons and Spas

5 simple tips that most salon and spa owners can easily incorporate, using the latest technology available:

Social Media, Made Simple
Managing every social network can be mind-boggling, so subscribe to a service to consolidate all of your accounts into one easy-to-use application. You’ll have more time to focus on what you’re posting, not how to post it. We use Hootsuite, but there are plenty of options out there.

Fill Empty Chairs with Fans
Don’t let chairs go empty because of no-shows and cancellations. Tweet and post to Facebook about last minute availability–adding a discount or an extra conditioning service–and minimize lost revenue. There are also services available now that will broadcast your last minute vacancies for you. Check out www.webopenings.com

Manage Your Online Reputation
More and more clients are posting reviews, and potential customers are flocking to read them. It’s essential that you control your image by responding to customer service issues and encouraging clients to share positive reviews. Yelp can be difficult to manage but Google reviews and Facebook reviews are much easier. Make sure you stay on top of them.

Know Your Clients
Most salons do not make the most of their salon computer system. Be smart – use client records to discover who is due for a service, who has stopped buying products, and who you think is likely to purchase more. Then target those different groups with email blasts or social media campaigns.

Front and Center
You’re on Facebook and you’ve got Twitter down pat, but how do you turn clients into fans? Tell them! This is one of the easiest and most effective things you should be doing right now! Place signage at reception asking them to follow you online and inform them of the benefits. All salons and spas should have several thousand fans.


Mutu makes sure you #NeverMissAnotherCall

We’re thrilled to be working with Mutu Solutions. Based in the UK, Mutu provide telephone and front-desk solutions to salons and spas all over Europe. They work with some of the best ones too, including the award-winning The Chapel, Toni&Guy and hundreds more.

Check out the brochure we have recently completed for them in our portfolio.

mutulogo - final copy


Product focus: Maddyloo Hair Ties

The best businesses come with a great back story and Maddyloo is no different. Their hair ties business was born in Jon and Honeya Samnick’s kitchen when they were dating. It was named after Honeya’s daughter and has gone from strength to strength since. 

Hair ties is a resilient category. Although it’s trending strongly right now, rather than dying it just dips occassionally until the next fashion or style in ties starts trending again. Maddyloo sits at the forefront of that trend curve by creating new designs and private labeling. In contrast to the mass imported ties, all Maddyloo products are made in Beverly Hills, CA, but still manage to have the largest selection and lowest cost in the category. That’s one of the reasons why they’ve been featured on the Today Show, People, US Weekly, Glamour, Seventeen, and Lucky.

During a recent product test-drive with a lucky 5 year old (pictured), it was noted that “they they don’t pull out the hair, they slide off easily, whereas other rubber bands, even the ones that are supposed to be snag-free, end up pulling hair out. They’d be great and easy for Dads ,who normally struggle when they have to do their daughters’ hair.”

But the breadth of the category is matched by Maddyloo’s lines – they’re target market spans all ages. More from Maddyloo soon but in the meantime, to find out more, check out their website.product shot collage 2


The Salon of the Future

At BlueWindowMedia, one of our specialist industry verticals is salon and spa. As a modern agency, we’re keen to stay on the cutting edge of thought leadership and always look into the future.

So, what does the salon of the future look like? Is it a scene where robotic limbs rotate around clients’ heads and perform services? Or is it a tranquil, mood-lit environment where stylists and colorists move gracefully around the salon on hover-boards? And when exactly is this future supposed to happen?

Well let’s start by looking about five years from now. The reality is probably very different from anything like we just described. It’s going to be more of an evolution. And in fact, at first glance you may not notice much difference from what we see today. The real change is going to be behind the scenes and how we communicate with the customer, both in and out of the salon. Because, let’s face it, the most powerful, super important, center of the salon universe, is the stylist and that’s not going to change. Yes, there’ll be a technological revolution of sorts, but it will be subtle and rather than taking over the salon, it will be an aid to the stylist-client relationship and a tool for the business. The real change will come from the customer’s perception. Few salons currently engage their customer as they should, but the salon of the future will make that much, much easier to achieve.

One thing we know for sure is that salons that sell product are more profitable. We also know that clients who purchase products are 66% more likely to come back for another service. But as an industry we’re not great at selling, because stylists don’t like doing it, and frankly, why should they? The client-stylist relationship is what drives customer loyalty the most, so we need to find alternative ways to encourage product sales and help the salon run as a business. And we’re not talking about certain group buying sites, where salons receive less money and more headaches. Far from it, because promotions will also evolve and will be an automated part of salon life, leaving the stylist, colorist and other staff to concentrate on the customer’s hair.

Many salons now have computer systems. Some, like Shortcuts Software, provide online booking and marketing features that automatically email and text clients reminders of their appointments. They even have dashboards for the business owner to see exactly how their salon is performing against industry benchmarks, and they can also calculate commissions and manage customer reviews. But the salon of the future will go much, much further.

The biggest change will come from convergence. It’s a term that’s been around for a while and it simply means that multiple systems will become integrated into one. So, computer systems like Shortcuts will talk to Smartphones to display hair tips and promotions; and Smartphones will talk to TV screens so that customers can control what they want to watch from their phone. Some salons already include screens for entertainment in backwash and waiting areas, but this type of technology will rapidly change. In fact, screens will display training out-of-hours for salon staff and during the day they will form an integral part of the salon experience, showing education, entertainment and promotions.

You may not realize it, but computing giant Microsoft has positioned itself right at the center of the changing face of service and retail business. They understand the challenges and the changes that are coming. Their Kinnect technology is a big part of what we can expect in the not too distant future. If you think Kinnect rings a bell, you’d be right – it’s the sensor technology that has become a huge part of the Microsoft X-Box phenomenon. So much so, that Kinnect is the fastest selling consumer electronics device of all time.

The Kinnect technology will also allow salons with retail areas to sense customers reaching for products and display information specific to them. In the same way, stylists and technicians with their hands full will be able to gesture at a screen and show the client the intended result.

The biggest revolution yet may arrive in new pricing. For years now, airlines and hotels have used dynamic pricing that varies according to available inventory and times of the day. Salons will be able to take this a step further and include specific customer information like loyalty when creating a price. With Microsoft’s technology, gender and age recognition can add another layer on to the dynamic pricing to decide between men’s and women’s products and services. That’s smart, relevant and just want tomorrow’s customer will want.

Check-in and check-out have traditionally been more like a border crossing than a smooth customer experience but all that’s about to change. Smartphones will house chips that will tell the computer system that you’ve walked through the door and hey presto, not only are you checked in, but the stylist is alerted and your favorite beverage is waiting for you. Exiting the salon is usually a mixture of tipping, awkward silence about product sales and the rush of footsteps as your client runs for their next appointment. In the salon of the future, a screen next to reception will thank the customer as they approach, read their history and offer an appropriate product, possibly with a discount. Adding this vital sales element at the point-of-sale, when the customer is 40% more likely to purchase than at any other time, will add a completely new revenue stream to salons, increasing customer loyalty and value.

Your sneak peak into some of the technologies and strategies that salons can look forward to in the future could be here sooner than you think. We’ve explored the salon through the creative, business and customer service side, and painted a picture of customer engagement, automatic offers, reviews and a variable pricing system that could revolutionize the industry.

Finally, these changes are not going to happen overnight. Twenty years ago computers were a dirty word in salons but now any serious salon owner seeks to exploit the most from their system. The changes facing the modern salon will emerge as creative business solutions to help drive new and existing business and allow the stylist to concentrate on their client.


Small business should be wary of stormy clouds

Cloud computing. What is it and why is everyone talking about it? Well, ok, not everyone, but certainly companies that make cloud-based software are constantly making bold statements like “anything else is just old” and “serious business only looks to the cloud”. Well, it’s not that clear cut.

Cloud-based software, for the purposes of this little exercise, is a program (or application) that you access from your browser. So, like Facebook, nothing actually lives on your computer. You don’t get floppy disks (who does these days?) or anything to load the software on. You simply open a browser and log in with your username and password and you have access to it.

Sounds great, right? Well, it does in theory, and if Facebook is what you’re accessing, then it is. But for business-critical systems, we should be a little more wary. And here’s why in one sentence: They don’t always work. 100% uptime, as they call it, or the fact that the software never stops working, is a myth. It doesn’t exist. That might be fine if you want to put some receipts into an expenses program that’s cloud-based. It might annoy you a little if it’s not available for half a day, but you can simply do it later. But if you have customers waiting to check out or make an appointment, that’s lost business unless you have a contingency plan.

So what could go wrong? Well there are essentially two things that could happen, so let’s have a look at both. Firstly, the Internet could go down. We’ve all experienced this and we’re all so connected that it causes anything from mild discomfort to screaming panic, depending on your disposition, and probably your last dramatic Facebook status. But most of us have smartphones and so we can access most things from our phones, without the need for wifi. In fact, if the Internet goes down, and remember this could be for any reason from your cable operator to a faulty router, then cloud-based systems usually let you access them from your phone or iPad, provided cell reception is great where you are.

The other, more worrying problem is that the software itself could ‘go down’. What? But surely that doesn’t happen often? It does and the reason is that depending on what you’re trying to use, it could be operated by a startup wandering through the fields of investor money and trial-and-error business models, or it could be a multi-national conglomerate like Amazon, who are still not infallible when it comes to their servers crashing.

If you’re a salon or spa, you could find yourself with a reception of angry clients who cannot check out, who may not come back or, worse yet, it could be people trying to become clients and not being able to use your online booking. They will go elsewhere.

Startups often create a program when they have a very small team and a good idea. They’re not always thinking about how to deal with tens of thousands of customers with millions of transactions and so, as they grow, the software often struggles. Some very high profile salon and spa systems have encountered so much disruption over the last two years that they’ve lost many customers and have stopped the ability for people to complain on their social media pages.

So, what should you do? Well to start with you need to work out how risk-averse you are. If you’re happy to swing into town, all guns blazin’, and you want all the bells and whistles you can get, then cloud-based systems could be for you. They may have more functionality, but may also be a little slower to operate. Look at the size of the business that’s running them. 20,000 customers does not make them a large business, so be careful. Speak to other users and look for reviews online. Best of all, speak to an independent specialist, like us. We will investigate for you, provide advice and find out the best deal available.

Speed and intuitive design are really important and both cloud-based systems and installed programs will have pros and cons in these areas. Make sure you try before you buy, especially for a business-critical program. What might be right for one business may not be ideal for yours.
None of us really know exactly where cloud-computing will go in the future. Will it completely overrun installed programs and be the only thing available in ten years time? The truth is that we don’t know and the likelihood is that it’ll probably be a mix. You probably won’t be using the same programs and systems in 10 years time, so buy for the next couple of years. Don’t look further than that and make sure that you build the costs into your business plan accordingly.

Cloud computing is here to stay and installed software is also not going away any time soon, so make sure you rise above the marketing propaganda and look at what will serve you best today.


Welcome to the gb Blog

Thanks for visiting us!

GusmanBremner is an agency designed for your needs, so the blog will reflect that and will deliver some of our thoughts and inspiration. We’ll cover everything from salon and spa to small business, enterprise applications and a whole host in between. If there’s anything you’d like to see, or even contribute, please let us know.

In the meantime, have a great week!